Lionel Messi shelves retirement plans as Argentina eye another Copa America title

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Argentine maestro Lionel Messi has committed that he will keep playing for the senior national team beyond the final of the Copa America 2024 that will be held on Sunday.

“As I’ve said before, I intend to continue,” he said Tuesday night after Argentina’s 2-0 win over Canada. “I intend to keep living day by day without thinking about what will come in the future or whether I’ll continue or not. It’s something I just live each day. I’m 37 years and only God knows when the end will be.”

Messi notched his 109th international score and the first of the current edition of the tournament in the recently-concluded game.

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner spoke outside the locker room at MetLife Stadium, where he announced his retirement after missing a penalty kick in the shootout loss to Chile in the 2016 Copa America final. He reversed his decision seven weeks later and has scored 54 goals in 73 international appearances since, raising his matches for Argentina to 186 as he helped win the 2021 Copa America and 2022 World Cup.

Angel di Maria to hang boots

Teammate Ángel Di María does intend to retire after Sunday’s game against Uruguay or Colombia at Miami Gardens, Florida. The 36-year-old Di María made his international debut in 2008 and has 31 goals in 144 appearances.

“It’s my last battle. There’s nothing left to say that I haven’t said a lot of times before,” Di María explained. “It’s my last game. I have to say thank you to all Argentineans and to this generation that has allowed me to lift so many trophies.”

Di María joined with Messi to lead Argentina to it’s third World Cup and 15th Copa America title. “We’ve enjoyed him so much,” Messi said. “He’s always given his all and the best of himself and that he will retire in a final is something he simply deserves.”

Scaloni keen on Di Maria continuing 

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni held out hope Di María will reverse his decision.

“We don’t want to start crying right now. We don’t want to feel melancholy,” Scaloni said. “We have to let him play and then we’ll see if we can convince him or not to stay with us.”

South American World Cup qualifying resumes in September, with each national team scheduled to play 12 more matches. The 2026 World Cup final will be at MetLife, that July 19.

“We will never be the ones to close the door,” Scaloni said. “He can be with our team for as long as he wants to be. And if he wants to retire but still come and hang around, it would be great. And if he wants to come with me to somewhere else, I will take him everywhere so he can decide whatever he wants to do.”

(With Reuters inputs)